Sunday, 3 December 2017

It's only taken me 50 years to work this one out


Onstage chemistry. Powerful stuff.


This time last week, I made very heavy weather of the day. Physically, I was completely shattered; my head, on the other hand, was spinning furiously. I really wasn't up to much.


And what was this about? Simple. I'd sung in a bloody brilliant choral concert at Birmingham Town Hall, the previous day. Now, singing in a choir is really no big deal; people do this all the time. I've been singing for maybe five years with the same group of very nice people; it's thoroughly enjoyable. 

But because I participated in last week's shindig – a proper, pomp and circumstance, full-on, full scale Classical affair, with loads of voices and an orchestra - I now have a much better idea of the things that make live musicians, or for that matter any live performer, tick. It's taken me this long to work it out; odd, considering I've been going to gigs for over fifty years.  

What makes a gig?


Gigs at their best are engrossing, enthralling, passionate and demanding. An audience sparks with what's on stage. The people on stage spark with each other and the audience. When the planets align, things go nuclear. And that's just grand. It becomes more than a performance, it's more like collective alchemy. But, here, I speak as member of the audience, no more. The onstage performance perspective is wholly different. 

I 'get' performance. I did DJ shows for decades, fully conscious of the need to present, to communicate, to relate to the audience. Pacing, stamina, consciousness, delivery - all essential for a live show - are all part of the radio canon as well. 

But it's not the same thing as a live, collaborative, immersive gig. It can't be: a DJ sits in a comfy room, maybe there's a colleague or two, and the music is there on tap. The essence of the show is what a DJ plays, or, just as important, if not more important, what the DJ says and gives of him or herself. There's no sweat, just thought. You don't get that intensity, it's impossible. 


The onstage buzz


So I now have, after all this time, a personal perspective on why people come off the stage totally buzzing. 

The buzz can lead to prattish behaviour, of course – a lot of those hoary old rock and roll tales are sadly true. But my discovery is that over the course of an intense show, live, on stage, so much adrenaline can be generated, so much passion is stirred up... that it comes as a shock to the system to suddenly come to a halt with all this STUFF churning around in your heart and soul.  It did for me. I got lost. 

It especially came as a shock to my system because, for all the preparation, I was way, way out of my comfort zone. It was a one-off gig, too: that added to the occasion. 

There were trappings, there was formality, structure, months of rehearsals, adrenalin, concentration, teamwork... close on a hundred musicians and voices coming together in front of 500 souls in a venue dripping with history. We were all nervous. And I got swept up in it all to a degree I simply wasn't expecting; I wasn't alone. 


Rehearsals and preparation can be daunting. For me, especially with Classical music, it's always a long slow haul just to get into the bones of the works. 

But that's before the collaborative teamwork kicks in, before the team gets whipped into shape. And when it comes together, laced with Adrenalin and exhilaration – bang. 



... and... breathe...

Knackered, me.
That's why I staggered off stage, astonishingly tired, coming back out into the world after two hours of super-intense immersion. It had all come together. I was privileged to take part. 

The gig itself? It was on Saturday 25th, a week ago at Birmingham Town Hall at the time of writing, with the largest formation of notorious choir ever arrayed across the choir stalls, the Town Hall organ in full effect and a 28 piece orchestra. There's more details and background in this post. We sang Rutter and Faure. Clare Edwards conducted. Everyone was on point. The German Market was in full swing right outside. It was intense and deeply, surprisingly, rewarding. The moments after the gig were a blur, as was the journey home. 

Maybe I should have written a post last week, right after the gig. But I was absolutely shattered and stiff as a board; it quite surprised me. So I doubt I'd have made a coherent fist of this post that day. Time always gives a fresh perspective. 

And I now have a new-found respect for live performance – the whole package. I've seen it from a different place, and I'm glad I did. 

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